New DVD and Blu-ray Releases for September 18, 2012
By Ryan Michael Painter
(KUTV) Another week filled with television series including the latest seasons of “Suburgatory,” “The Mentalist,” “Supernatural” (which I love and can’t wait to catch up on), “Body of Proof,” “Arny Wives” and “Modern Family.” Theatrical films making their home video debuts include the Academy Award nominated “Chico & Rita,” the crowd pleasing “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and the Duplass Brother’s indie comedy “The Do-Deca Pentathlon.”
The week’s biggest, most exciting release is the fantastic Blu-ray debut of “Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures.”
Those looking forward to the massive James Bond Blu-ray box set can be placated by HISTORY’s “The Gadgets of James Bond.”
This week also sees the Blu-ray debuts of Tim Burton’s unseen masterpiece “Ed Wood” as well as Sylvester Stallone’s 1995 box office disappointment “Judge Dredd.”
If you’re in the mood for a horror film you can choose between 1980’s “Mother’s Day” on Blu-ray or Michael Biehn’s directorial debut “The Victim.”
“Game of Thrones” fans will want to check out Sean Bean in the thriller “Cleanskin.”
There might also be a candy-swirl colored documentary on pop starlet Katy Perry (in 3D no less) to satiate your sweet tooth.
Here are this week’s reviews broken down by genre:
Action: “Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures,” “Judge Dredd”
Animated: “Chico & Rita”
Comedy: “The Do-Deca Pentathlon”
Documentary: “James Bond Gadgets,” “Katy Perry: Part of Me”
Drama: “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” “Ed Wood”
Horror: “Mother’s Day,” “The Victim”
Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures (Blu-ray)
If you were to erase the films of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas from history my childhood would be unrecognizable. The Indiana Jones films were my introduction to the classic adventure genre and revisiting them has been an absolute delight. 30 years after its release in theaters “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is still an amazing film. It’s an epic that remains unequaled. Harrison Ford’s performance as the intellectual adventure is nothing short of perfection. He’s the perfect mix of brawn and brains. “The Temple of Doom” is a flawed, but ultimately pleasing prequel. It’s darker and less grounded, but still entertains. “The Last Crusade” is the sequel that everyone expected “The Temple of Doom” to be. The casting of Sean Connery as Indy’s father was absolutely inspired. The script is fun, witty and nearly matches the first film in every way. The fourth entry, the much maligned “The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” does pale to its predecessors. Its heart is in the right place, but it can’t quite be anything more than a disappointment. For this Blu-ray release the first three films were restored and while there are some minor issues I’m overwhelmingly pleased with the results. The older films don’t look nearly as good as the newer productions, but that is to be expected. The audio tracks however are uniformly excellent. Bonus features include most the featurettes from the DVD box set (the storyboard comparisons, still galleries are most notably missing) along with a newly produced feature “On Set with ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’” and a previously unreleased “The Making of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’” from 1981. Both of these documentaries are essential viewing. About half of the bonus materials from the Blu-ray release of “The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” have been included. “Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures” is a phenomenal box set that comes highly recommended.
Judge Dredd (Blu-ray)
With “Dredd 3D” due in theaters on September 21 it is only natural that 1995’s “Judge Dredd” would rear its ugly head with a Blu-ray release. The film stars Sylvester Stallone as Judge Dredd, a Street Judge (police officer, judge, jury and executioner all in one) who believes in the letter of the law until he is wrongly convicted of killing a news reporter. Now a fugitive Dredd must find those responsible for framing him and save world from its impending doom. “Judge Dredd” wants to be “Robocop” but ends up being one of Joel Schumacher’s Batman films. It’s loud, goofy and a chore to sit through. Paul Verhoeven did it so much better.
Chico & Rita (DVD, Blu-ray/DVD/CD combo)
When the Academy Award nominations were released in January I was surprised to see “Chico & Rita” nominated for Best Animated Feature. I’d never heard of it. I didn’t know anyone who had seen it. When I did have the chance to watch the film it became instantly clear why the film had been nominated. It tells a beautiful story about Chico, a Cuban jazz musician and his rocky romance with Rita, his beautiful muse. Set primarily in the 1940s Cuba during a cultural revolution the film is propelled by the exotic rhythm of jazz and gorgeous imagery. The animation is simplistic, but beautifully fluid and vibrant. I suppose it should be noted that the film is intended for adult audiences and that children would be better off watching the jazz influenced tale “The Aristocats.”
The Do-Deca Pentathlon (DVD and Blu-ray)
As children, brothers Mark (Steve Zissis) and Jeremy (Mark Kelly) set out to compete against each other in a grueling 25 event competition known as “The Do-Deca Pentathlon.” Tied after 24 events the final challenge was unceremoniously cut short by their father. Decades later the bitter rivals reconvene to finally prove which brother is truly the best. Written and directed by the Duplass Brothers “The Do-Deca Pentathlon” is part fiction, part exaggeration. It’s not nearly as funny as the duo’s “Cyrus” or as deeply felt as “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” but if you’re looking for a more authentic and generally pleasing mumblecore (independent with a low budget) you could do far worse.
James Bond Gadgets (DVD)
James Bond is celebrating his 50th anniversary with a new film scheduled to arrive in theaters in October and the massive blu-ray box set “Bond 50” next week. As a bit of a primer HISTORY releases “James Bond Gadgets” this week. The DVD features two programs from the “Modern Marvels” series as well as The Biography Channel’s special on Ian Fleming. The “Modern Marvels” episodes are interesting as they take a look at many of the gadgets and cars featured in the iconic film series with interviews with fans, critics and actors from the films, but it is the bonus program on Ian Fleming that I found to be the most interesting. I didn’t know much of anything about Fleming. I suppose I thought he was a writer simply living out his fantasies through one of his characters. It would seem that James Bond isn’t as fictional as I always assumed.
Katy Perry: Part of Me (DVD, Blu-ray/DVD combo and 3D Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
When I sat down to watch “Katy Perry: Part of Me” in theaters I did so as a sense of duty. My job is to review films, even if that means seeing a few I’d rather avoid. I left “Part of Me” pleasantly surprised. Katy Perry impressed me with her work ethic and her devotion to her fans. The film tells the story of Perry’s rise to success after years of struggling to not only discover who she is, but also find the right people in the music industry that didn’t want to turn her into someone else. It is a story of supportive parents, perseverance and ultimately heartache as Perry’s marriage disintegrates over the course of the film’s narrative. There is also plenty of concert footage interspersed throughout the film to keep things lively. If you’re a Katy Parry fan “Part of Me” is essential viewing.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (DVD and Blu-ray)
A group of unacquainted British seniors look to retire in style at an exotic Indian resort but find their accommodations aren’t nearly as posh as advertised. “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is carried by its wonderful cast that includes acclaimed British actors Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith and “Slumdog Millionaire” star Dev Patel. Director John Madden, best known for the films “Shakespeare in Love” and “The Debt,” offers up a visually scrumptious feast that will appeal to any art house audience, not just those fitting within the age demographic of the film’s stars.
Ed Wood (Blu-ray)
If Federico Fellini’s “8 ½” was about a B-movie director it would look a lot like Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood.” Burton’s wonderful bopic about Ed Wood, the “worst director in the history of cinema,” is a loving tribute featuring wonderful performances from the fantastic cast that includes Johnny Depp, Bill Murray, Patricia Arquette, Sarah Jessica Parker and Martin Landau, who was awarded an Academy Award for his performance as Bela Lugosi. I love this movie. It has a gleeful naivety and, more surprisingly, tenderness in the performances. The black and white cinematography looks wonderful and while there aren’t any newly produced features all of the bonus material (deleted scenes and behind-the-scenes featurettes) from the DVD release has been carried over.
Mother’s Day (Blu-ray)
Charles Kaufman’s (brother of Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman) hillbilly hixploitation film about a deranged mother and her two depraved sons who kidnap a trio of female campers and do terrible things to them was apparently the film watched at his Bar Mitzvah. That in itself explains a lot about Roth. 1980’s “Mother’s Day” is sick and twisted, which of course is exactly what Kaufman was going for. It has been suggested that the film is actually a commentary on the commercialization of holidays. I don’t see it. What I do see is a film that looks remarkably fantastic on Blu-ray. There are occasional scratches and thick grain, but considering the low budget of the film and that the film is over thirty years old this release looks far better than expected. Bonus features include a fact-filled audio commentary, test footage, Eli Roth proclaiming his love for the film as well as a panel from Comic-Con.
The Victim (DVD and Blu-ray)
Michael Biehn’s directorial debut is a trashy exploitation film starring Biehn, Jennifer Blanc and reigning scream queen Danielle Harris. The plot revolves around a pair of unsavory cops who take a pair of strippers (Blanc and Harris) into the woods for a “picnic.” A cop’s ego gets bruised and stripper’s neck gets broken forcing stripper #2 to run off into the forest where she discovers Kyle (Biehn) who reluctantly gives her aid. Sex, violence and creepy monologues follow. I expected “The Victim” to be a variation on the “I Spit On Your Grave” storyline, but it isn’t that sort of revenge thriller. In fact it is sort of a strange knight-in-shining-armor story with a violent and psychological twist. If you’re into exploitation cinema “The Victim” is worth a look.
“Cleanskin” bounces between two storylines. One follows Ewan (Sean Bean), a British Secret Service Agent, tasked with locating and breaking up a terrorist cell operating in London. The second is about Ash, one of the members of the terrorist cell, and his journey to becoming a suicide bomber. “Cleanskin” is an efficient thriller elevated by its cast (which also includes Charlotte Rampling, James Fox and star-to-be Tuppence Middleton). Director/writer Hadi Hajaig’s script initially seems very ambitious, but ultimately it strays into fairly predictable territory. “Cleanskin” is definitely worth a look.
(Copyright 2012 Sinclair Broadcasting Group)